“We made three mistakes that I regret, the first being restructuring the NHS. The rest are minor.”— unnamed Senior Conservative Cabinet Minister
Getting involved locally
Campaigners are increasingly convinced that taking action at the local level is one of the most effective ways of influencing government decisions. In fact, the NHS “Reforms” actively promote patient involvement! Here are some ideas of actions any of us can take to help sustain the NHS:
- Writing to your MP, or visiting them at their local surgery or at the House of Commons, to let them know your concerns about health services in their constituency. (To find your MP’s name and address see https://www.writetothem.com – this site also has useful information about running a campaign).
- Opting to use genuine NHS services. If you want your health care to continue to be provided by NHS services rather than private contractors, you can ask your GP to mark your file NPP (No Private Provider.) This means that, unless there is no alternative, your GP must give you the option of referral to an NHS hospital, consultant or other form of treatment. KONP (www.keepournhspublic.com) can provide more information and a postcard to fill in and give to your GP.
- Joining a Patient Participation Group. All G.P. practices are expected to set up groups to promote two-way exchange of information between patients and surgery staff on the full range of health related matters and the provision of services. Examples of ways in which PPG members have been involved include:
- promoting awareness of and access to local health services;
- bidding with the practice to provide new services;
- representing patient views on the purchase of health services.
Click here more detailed information about the terms of reference for Patient Participation Groups. If you are interested in joining your Surgery’s PPG, you can get more information from www.NAPP.org.uk.
- Making best use of Healthwatch. Healthwatch England describes itself as a national champion for those using health and care services – it has statutory powers to make sure that those who commission, provide and regulate services hear about what matters to patients. In addition, every local authority is required to set up a local branch of Healthwatch (LHW) to report on the needs and experiences of patients and users of care services at a local level. LHW groups are expected to include lay members and should be open to respond to questions and concerns from individuals and the wider community. So, if it works well, Healthwatch has the potential to know how the NHS is working locally and to send reports, questions and complaints ‘straight up the line’.
Some people doubt whether LHW groups can be very effective. They may receive funding from NHS England or the local CCG and so feel inhibited in challenging them if necessary. In addition, LHW groups are run as social enterprises and, as such, are restricted from certain activities including promoting or opposing the policy which any government or public authority proposes to adopt. In other words, LHW groups may have no teeth. (see http://www.healthwatch.org.uk/#/blog/4564850745/Local-Healthwatch-the-new-health-watchdog.-How-loud-will-it-bark/4451117 ).
For the powers of local Healthwatch, and how they differ from Patient Participation Groups, see http://www.napp.org.uk/healthwatch.html.
For government information on Healthwatch, including details of how to find your local Healthwatch group, see http://www.healthwatch.co.uk.
See also www.healthwatch.org.uk which aims to help improve involvement, engagement and information for service users, carers and staff.
- Getting involved with your local NHS Foundation Trust.Monitor, the new organisation which oversees Foundation Trusts, explains that they have been set up to be “more responsive to the needs and wishes of their local communities – anyone who lives in the area, works for a foundation trust, or has been a patient or service user there, can become a member of the Trust. These members elect the board of governors.”As with Healthwatch groups, its important that concerned patients and members of the public use this opportunity to get directly involved. Much more detailed information, including contacts for your local NHS Foundation Trust, and how to get involved can be found on www.monitor-nhsft.gov.uk . Members of the public can also find out about their rights to attend certain meetings so they become directly aware of local health service developments.
- Joining a campaign group. For a list of existing campaign groups, and how to find local campaigns, see our ‘Campaigns‘ page.
- Setting up a local group. If no local group exists in your area, you could think about setting one up. 38 Degrees may already have a local group campaigning on the NHS in your area – if not, they offer advice about how to set one up, plus useful resources (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/local_chapter_collections/1). To find out if Keep Our NHS Public has a group in your area, see http://www.keepournhspublic.com/KONPgroups.php. Alternatively you can set up a new KONP group if a small number of local people affiliate. KONP provide campaign resources and if you want to set up a public meeting, they offer to help find speakers (see http://www.keepournhspublic.com/joinus.php).
- Reporting changes or cuts to NHS Services. For all the reasons explained elsewhere in this leaflet, the NHS is under huge staffing and budgetry stress and there are increasing reports of negative impacts on health care services. If you are aware of rationing or cuts to NHS services, you can report the facts to www.falseeconomy.org.uk/cuts. They are tracking changes across the full range of health and social care services and every report helps to build the bigger picture. A different organisation is tracking privatisation of NHS services. You can report local changes to www.nhscampaign.org – look for the report form under ‘Tracking Privatisation’. It is also worthwhile reporting serious deterioration in health care services to your local paper or radio.
Further information. You can find more details on all these ideas in Unison’s guide “How to infuence the NHS.” See Resources section of this website.
In addition, although not local action, you can observe meetings of NHS England – see http://www.england.nhs.uk/category/board-meetings